Innamoramento and Getting Past the Exterior

Francesca Paolo


We all try to present ourselves in the most positive light when first falling in love. We primp a little, shine our shoes, fuss with our hair, make sure our make up and outfits are just right.  All of this preparation as a good thing; certainly it shows we care  enough about our prospective partner to do what it takes to make a good impression, and let’s face it, we are all visual creatures. Yet most of us are not supermodels and often get bypassed for someone who is more handsome, prettier, thinner, younger–the list goes on. The downside is that pre-judging based on appearance may cause you to lose an opportunity with someone who could have ended up being the love of your life.

A good example is the tragically beautiful love story recounted by Dante in la Divina Comedia. Based on the real life story of two of Dante’s contemporaries, Francesca was fooled into marrying Gianciotto Malatesta, who was said to be “ugly and deformed”. She was promised to him as a peace concession between her father and the father of Gianciotto, after they had ended the war between them. The fathers knew that if Francesca saw Gianciotto before they were betrothed that she might refuse, as he was so physically unattractive. Thus, in his place, they sent Gianciotto’s handsome brother Paolo to sign the marriage contract before the ceremony. The two immediately fell in love (based on looks), but come the time of the ceremony, Francesca saw that the man she was about to marry was Gianciotto, and not Paolo!  By that time, she had already fallen in love with Paolo, and the two decided to continue their affair even after the marriage to his brother.

One day, Gianciotto caught wind of their affair and barged into Francesca’s bedroom just as Paolo was trying (unsuccessfully) to escape. In an attempt to kill Paolo with his sword, Francesca put her body between the two men and the sword plunged through her heart and killed her. Gianciotto was horrified, as he really did love her more than life itself. He could not save her and so ended up killing both lovers, who were buried together in one tomb.

When Dante meets Francesca in Inferno (after all she had officially committed “adultery”), she tells him that Love led the two of them to one death, and that there is “no greater sorrow than thinking back upon a happy time  [when one is] in misery”.  Dante was so moved by her story that he fainted.

One can only wonder what would have happened to Francesca if the powers that be at the time, hadn’t tried to deceive her? Did they not trust she would have been able to see past Gianciotto’s exterior to recognize a heart that tenderly loved her? Research shows that a person’s personality can  often make them seem more physically attractive (or unattractive in the case of negative qualities) than they are.

The bottom line is that love takes time. For your own sake it is important to get past the outside and allow yourself the time it takes to get to know someone on the inside.

Seduzione, as the Antidote to “Love at First Sight”

Photo courtesy
Photo courtesy

Yes, there is such a thing as un colpo di fulmine (love at first sight) and in rare cases, the smitten duo turn out to be all they claim to be as time marches on. Those are the success stories, albeit rare. More often a better description is chemistry at first sight, which is something that clouds our judgement. Don’t get me wrong, relationships can’t go beyond platonic if chemistry is lacking; however, there also needs to be the kind of substance and harmony that only comes with the time it takes for each person to reveal (through word and deed) who they really are.

Enter the art of seduction, the master model of which was Giacomo Casanova. While Casanova did teach us few positive strategies regarding winning another’s affection, his was mostly a negative model, because of his “usa e getta”, disposable approach to wooing lovers.  The longest he ever stayed with anyone was three months, and the reason was because she presented more of a challenge to him than did the masses.

Instead, I prefer the approach of Italian psychiatrist and author Giacomo Dacquino. In his book “Seduzione” he makes a compelling case for why the art of seduction is an important part of falling in love. The bottom line is–it gives us TIME. The time we need to really get to know one another through dialogue, creativity, niceties, the building of mutual respect and eventually a deeper kind of love. In short, that is what he calls “courtship”, the very phase we all seem to be bypassing these days in our hurry to find a partner.  The colpo di fulmine can cause us to skip this vital step of taking our time, and gives us a false step of intimacy (“I feel as if I have known you all my life”, etc). Once you have created an image of this instant chemistry person in your mind, you begin to discard signs that might pop up that go against this image of prince(ss) charming.

So when falling in love, remember Dacquino’s positive definition “seduction”–the magical gift of time through old fashioned courtship..

Mollare–let it go

Self-Portrait (photo courtesy
Da Vinci Self-Portrait (photo courtesy

All right, I admit it–I have combed through the notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci. Of all the insights I have devoured like a student at the feet of a great philosopher,  the one pearl of wisdom that I found stunningly beautiful is what he wrote about how to live. This advice is especially poignant if you are getting over a break up, or have lost an important person in your life.

The water you touch in a river is the last of that which has passed, and the first of that which is coming. Thus it is with time present. Life, if well-spent, is long.

When someone you loved is no longer in your life, you have two choices: You can spend the rest of your days looking over your shoulder and sobbing at the part of the river that has already flowed past, or you can immerse yourself into the world of the present–where every moment, every thought, every beat of your heart holds new wonder and possibility. The glistening of the snow, the buzz of the honey bee on the tail of a warm breeze, the smile of a stranger, who just might turn out to be “the one”. Life can hold a surprise at any given moment. Don’t be the one who misses it, because of your longing for what is no longer your reality. “Be here now”, and keep your heart open to love.

You Must Seek the Love You Desire

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Photo courtesy of

A novel I once read told the story of a woman who had lost her family, her home, and her job, but instead of curling up into a ball and waiting to die, she decided to “manifest” a new life. Before long she was living in a lovely little cottage, found a job to pay her bills, and then lo and behold one of the carpenters she hired to work on the cottage became the next love of her life.

Sognatori--dreamers. We all are, and to a certain extent that creative process helps us clarify and get closer to what we really need and want out of life. But as far back as Ancient Roman Times, the great thinkers knew that dreams don’t come to fruition by continuing to dream and remaining passive.

The Great Roman Poet Ovid, in his classic work on love, Ars Amatoria (The Art of Love)

  You must choose who pleases you and say so. She will not come floating down to you through the tenuous air; she must be sought, the girl whom your glance approves. Well knows the hunter where to spread his nets for the stag, well knows he in what glen the boar with gnashing teeth abides; familiar are the copses to the fowlers, and he who holds the hook is aware in what waters many fish are swimming. You too, who seek the object of lasting passion, learn first what places the maidens haunt.

This ancient wisdom still applies today, and is not incongruent with Dr. Arieti’s point on going where the type of person you want to fall in love with hangs out. If you are looking for a creative man/woman, get out and go to art galleries, museum discussions, musical concerts. If an intellectual is the best match for you, go to your local university public lectures, or the library book clubs, or to independent films. Like to stay active? Join the community ski club, or take a few ballroom or salsa dance lessons.

The point is, you won’t find the love of your life sitting in front of a TV set. So get out, have fun and look at love as something that can pop into your life at any moment.

If you have a love story you’d like to share, do comment below, and don’t forget “like” and  to share this post.

Dieci Regole, if you are looking for love

Renowned Italian author and psychiatrist Raffaele Morelli, believes that each DAY is a new opportunity to start with a clean slate. So forget the past, give up any bitterness or regrets, and consider THIS day the day you start anew, with an open heart and a willingness to LOVE.

Here are some tips from the work of Silvano Arieti, MD, Pisa-born psychiatrist, and his son, James from their book “Love Can Be Found”.

1. Overcome personal fears.

2. Believe in your self-worth and dignity.

3. Expose yourself to the kind of settings that are filled with the kind of person you seek.

4. Don’t look for the impossible.

5. Don’t rush to accept or reject someone who might turn out to be right for you.

6. Ask yourself why you are often rejected, if you feel that is the case.

7. Find ways to sustain the “longing”, once you find a partner.

8. Never misrepresent yourself.

9. Don’t expect instant success.

10. Learn how to seriously commit to a relationship.

If your goal in 2015 is to have more love in your life, these tips offer a great way to fine-tune your perspective and prepare yourself for that romantic relationship you desire.